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German police investigate foiled plot to bomb plane

Written by: Staff

BERLIN, Nov 20 (Reuters) German authorities are investigating a number of people in connection with what they suspect was a foiled plot to smuggle a bomb onto a passenger plane, the Federal Prosecutor's Office said today.

German security sources said on condition of anonymity that the plane would have been at Frankfurt International Airport, one of the world's busiest. German newspaper Die Welt cited security sources as saying the target was a plane of Israel's El Al airline.

An El Al spokeswoman in Israel said the company does not respond to reports about security matters.

Prosecutors in Karlsruhe said they were investigating six suspects whom they had identified and a number of unidentified suspects. None of the names have been made public.

Several of the suspects had approached someone during the summer who had access to the security department at a German airport and who had expressed willingness to smuggle a suitcase or bag onto a plane for payment, a statement said.

The suspects repeatedly made contact with the person but were unable to agree on a price for planting a bomb, it said.

Die Welt said the person was a male employee of Frankfurt airport.

''The suspects were temporarily taken into custody and informed of the suspicions against them before they were released on Saturday, with the exception of one wanted in connection with another crime,'' the office said.

The men are suspected of being members of a terrorist organisation, the office said. It did not explain why the suspects, who remain under investigation, had been released.

''I can't comment on the particularities about the decision to release them,'' said a spokesman for the interior ministry.

Germany's BND foreign intelligence agency also declined comment.

The prosecutor's office said it had searched nine apartments on Friday in the western German states of Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse to gather evidence.

It gave no details about the nationality of the suspects.

Police uncovered a failed plot by two young Lebanese men to detonate suitcase bombs on trains in western Germany in July.

A Hamburg-based al Qaeda cell has been blamed for the Sept.

11, 2001, hijacked-plane attacks on the United States. Since then, Germany has cracked down on Muslim militants living here and has put on trial a number of radical Islamists.

Reuters SP DB2109

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